Tub Thump Dump.

It’s not that there aren’t a bunch of things to talk about. I want to review a certain anime series that combines unremarkable animation with some of the sharpest TV writing I’ve ever encountered on the subject of personality uploads. I want to share my perspective on the tech bros and futurists and “prototypers” who turn all those cool ideas into KoolAid that they drink themselves almost as enthusiastically as they sell it to us. A recent paper came out in Science Advances building on older work that I talked about a few years back: a paper on octopus microRNAs that’s booted up all manner of skiffy fantasies in my head about brain editing. And that’s not even getting into COP27, or COP15, or the stuff I’m not allowed to talk about because of the NDAs involved.

These are just the things I’d like to have been blogging about since my last post of over a month ago. There was even more stuff I didn’t blog about during the four month inter-post gap before that (during which a couple of you even reached out to see if I was still alive, for which I thank you; I was). It’s   not that I didn’t want to blog: it’s that a decently-researched post generally devours a solid day, minimum, which is a lot of time to give up when you’ve got other commitments to meet. The moment something unexpected comes up (we live with five cats and a killer rabbit—something always comes up), the ‘crawl is the first thing to get pushed aside.

I think I may have said this before.

So for my first post in over a month (and only my second in five) you’d think I’d be writing about one of those things I wanted to, right?

Nope. Because I’ve been asked to spread the word about some stuff, and—because I shy away from social media for reasons that should be freshly obvious pretty much every time you open a browser—this is pretty much the only place I can do that.

So if you don’t get enough of me here on the ‘crawl, check out one of these other events. You might regard them as a combination greatest-hits package (my thoughts on Neuralink, in case you’ve forgotten!) and a trailer for posts yet to come (preliminary thoughts on Futurist KoolAid, raw and not necessarily coherent!).

So. Either move on or buckle up:

Tales from the Bridge

—a podcast run out of my old stomping ground in Guelph, hosted a cage match between Karl Schroeder and myself a couple of weeks back. In addition to being a damn fine SF writer, Karl works as a futurist for various corporate and military concerns. (I’m not entirely certain whether his can-do techno-optimism came preloaded, or emerged in response to the job description. I’m somewhat more certain that he would object to being characterized as a “can-do techno-optimist”.) Karl and I disagree about a lot. You can hear us do that here, if you like.

If you poke around in the TFTB archives, you’ll come across other Watts appearances that I didn’t announce at the time: one solo, and one tag-teaming with Neill Blomkamp (the “District 9” dude) with whom I seem to be, spoiler alert, maybe collaborating with.

You’ll also find The Bridge’s one-on-one with Karl and a wide range of other folks who are far more famous than either of us. The musketeers behind Tales get around. (They even got me to Toronto Comicon a couple of years back, where I managed to so profoundly outrage a couple of parents with a small child that I was never invited back.)

Media Death Cult

Karl and I went back and forth for about eighty minutes. If anyone comes out of that thinking I’d like to hear Watts rant about things, but hogging the mic more and going on for twice as long—well, they’re in luck. Just a couple of days ago, Moid Moidelhoff[1] of Media Death Cult, dropped another conversation with me onto YouTube. That one goes on for over two hours; Moid and I bounce between everything from pandemics to neurotech to our favorite SF authors.

Moid tells me it’s the best-received interview he’s ever done. I can’t speak to that. I’m pretty sure it’s the longest, though. (I was actually expecting him to edit it down somewhat. I was also expecting him to use an author photo that had been taken with the past ten years.)

LUMAnati

If you want something a bit more multisensory, you can have it, but you’ll probably have to go out of your way: check out the second annual Realities of Science Fiction, a shindig being held next weekend at LUMA‘s Arts Center in Arles (France). This year’s Reality addresses issues related to “Afrofuturism and Indigenous futurisms”, subjects obviously in desperate need of the expertise of old white guys like myself. Fortunately I’ll be sharing the stage with Sunhaus‘s celebrated artist and filmmaker Arthur Jafa, who—for reasons that continue to elude and frighten me—requested my presence at this event.

Locus of Dis-Content

Finally, most of you have probably riffled through the pages of Locus, or at least scrolled their website, during your tenure as card-carrying SF fans. For the rest of you: it’s basically the trade journal of North American SF, as well as the entity behind the unsurprisingly-named “Locus Awards” (which I have occasionally made the finals for but never won). It has also won a number of awards in its own right, although as far as I know it has never won a Locus.

Anyway. Locus is currently involved in their very first crowdfunding campaign over at IndieGogo, and a huge raft of SF luminaries are pitching it with perks and offerings to help them meet their goal (stretch goals, now). I am on that raft; evidently the Locusts think that an online chat with me qualifies as some kind of prize. (Personally I would’ve thought a signed book might carry more weight, but a chat is what they went with.) So there I am. But even if you’ve got your fill of me, check out the other rewards on offer; you’re bound to find something you like. There’s even an interpretive dance performance by Kelly Robson and (if I’m reading this correctly) a chat with Mary Robinette Kowal’s cat.

Go give them money. They deserve it.

Also I was supposed to post that across my social media at 11am on Tuesday, but, you know. No social media presence.

Sorry.


  1. Yeah, I’m a bit suspicious of that name myself.


This entry was posted on Friday, December 9th, 2022 at 2:45 pm and is filed under On the Road, public interface. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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Yuval
Guest
Yuval
1 month ago

I want to share my perspective on the tech bros and futurists and “prototypers” who turn all those cool ideas into KoolAid that they drink themselves almost as enthusiastically as they sell it to us.

Speaking of which, do you know those hoverboards we were promised 35 years ago in the Back to the Future? Nowadays they sell products called “hoverboards”, but they don’t even hover! They are just some sort of cheap Segway!

ABR
Guest
ABR
1 month ago
Reply to  Yuval

You can get them, they just work only over water.

TK-421
Guest
TK-421
1 month ago

Which anime is it?

asd
Guest
asd
1 month ago
Reply to  TK-421

It’s probably not, but check out DECA-DENCE

Omegaman
Guest
Omegaman
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Watts

Trailer looks good, but the series seams to be not yet available for streaming in Germany.

sqwid
Guest
sqwid
30 days ago
Reply to  Peter Watts

I recently watched it and I thought it was great. I generally have an aversion to “singularity” science fiction but this really elaborates on all the points I generally would believe to be too nihilistic for my tastes. It’s like watching an anime directed by Cronenberg. I also wasn’t the biggest fan of the animation but the more out there sequences did do well.

Emme
Guest
Emme
10 days ago
Reply to  Peter Watts

Aaaaand it has been cancelled…

has
Guest
has
9 days ago
Reply to  Peter Watts
D'Artagnan Lee
Guest
D'Artagnan Lee
1 month ago

Your posts have been missed. All podcast links are now bookmarked and saved for later enjoyment.

Since the decennial Sight & Sound poll of the best movies of all time has come around again, I’m curious if you would share a personal top 10 or so?

My name may also be suspicious but, hand on the Necronomicon, that’s what my parents chose (fourth male born {who lived} in the family, fourth Musketeer – that’s American Midwest clever, I guess).

Chuk
Guest
Chuk
1 month ago
Reply to  D'Artagnan Lee

My kids went to school with a D’Artagnan (but not you because we’re in Canada) too.

D'Artagnan Lee
Guest
D'Artagnan Lee
1 month ago
Reply to  Chuk

There’s a few of us, i’ve noticed.

On a brighter side (as opposed to me noticng Mr. Watts ignored my post again), my cousin manged to procure me a copy of MAELSTROM. Mery Xmas to me.

D'Artagnan Lee
Guest
D'Artagnan Lee
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Watts

Thank you for sharing and I don’t mean to be a bother. I had a couple of drinks in me and was feeling mildly surly for reasons having nothing to do with this message board or you. I regret making a fuss of any sort.

The Thing 1982, Blade Runner (also ’82, a great year for genre fare), Aliens and Alien are all in my personal top 10 as well. Everything else you mentioned is also on ‘the list’ somewhere, just not top 10 (except for Soderbergh’s Solaris, whch I haven’t seen as I would like to watch Tarkovsky’s original first, but I haven’t gotten the gumption up for a 3-hour sit – same for his Stalker, which I bought on DVD but have not gotten to yet).

Thanks again and I hope the conference treats you well.

D'Artagnan Lee
Guest
D'Artagnan Lee
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Watts

Awesome. I will certainly read it.

Thanks again and, if you partake, happy holidays.

Me? I will be pulling an extended shift on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day working for “the largest hotel chain in the world.”

Which reninds me, If you could use a discount, I can hook you up. Just let me know.

has
Guest
has
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Watts

Goldilocks problem: one is cut obscenely long; the other, too short. Both frustrate as storytelling.

That said, much as I loathe its wallowing bloat, there are moments in the ’72 movie permanently welded into my visual memory, crystal today even two decades on from when I last watched it. Whereas Soderbergh’s only yields static.†

Maybe Tarkovsky’s Solaris recut by Soderbergh to a sane 110 minutes‡ would feel about right?

† Contrast S1 of Soderbergh’s The Knick, which absolutely smashed it. Also exhaustingly paced—but, man, what a trip! That I do recall clearly—amazing TV—so Soderbergh certainly can do it.

‡ Andrey Konchalovskiy’s Runaway Train clocks 111 and successfully welds barren existentialism to engaging and accessible characters and narrative, so that can also be done.

ABR
Guest
ABR
1 month ago
Reply to  D'Artagnan Lee

Stalker is very worth it and among the most accessible of Tarkovsky’s films.

Andy
Guest
Andy
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Watts

I am severly conflicted about Dune to be honest. On one hand, it is gorgeous to look at and listen to, and marvellously well-cast (my one concern, Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, won me over in a hurry); on the other it felt… samey? Like, Villeneuve said he was a massive fan, it shows, and it’s not a good thing. The changes were either little more than cosmetic (Kynes), or not ones I could get behind (Gurney Halleck, my favorite character in the book, really got shafted here).

I loved all the bits with Jamis though. If Frank Herbert still lived, I think it’d be his “you’re gonna need a bigger boat” moment.

Greg Guy
Guest
Greg Guy
1 month ago

Listened to the podcast with you and Karl. It was great but found Karl to be exceedingly naive. His grasp of a lot fo the fundamentals of climate change seemed quite limited.

Greg Guy
Guest
Greg Guy
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Watts

Maybe, I don’t want to shit too much on Karl but he strikes me as being very much like a certain type of person I come across a lot in the corporate world. Highly intelligent but very limited in self-reflection. Great at solving the kind of constrained problem you might find in IT, but not so good a big picture stuff. Always viewed it as some form of meta-cognitive deficit.

Lycan
Guest
Lycan
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Watts

I got swarmed a few weeks back for suggesting people have less kids. People get passionate about it quick and it being the intertubes, charges of “eugenics” flew.

Down here in the States it’s like there’s an unwritten 0th Amendment; “The right of the People to have as many kids as they want, even using the frozen sperm of Charles Manson, shall not be infringed. Yes, even if they’re junkies who just dump them into the system.”

I really don’t get it.

Omegaman
Guest
Omegaman
1 month ago

The Media Death Cult Video was dope, but unfortunately large parts are a repetition of other talks, so besides of the SciFi-Book-Stuff not much new information, but still brilliant. Definitely loved it.

BUT: I wonder, why in every talk so often about Blindsight (which I found superb), but never about the more recent Echopraxia (which I didn´t read till now).
Would love to see / hear more about Echopraxia.

And: will there a third full-size novel in the Firefall-Universe? When will it come out?

And: I wonder, what´s the name of this is “a certain anime series that combines unremarkable animation with some of the sharpest TV writing”

Can you say at least the name?

Thank you very much!

Last edited 1 month ago by Omegaman
Suneater
Guest
Suneater
1 month ago
Reply to  Omegaman

I too would love to know which anime you were talking about

Omegaman
Guest
Omegaman
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Watts

Ok, thanks for the answer.
I definitely will read Echopraxia in the next months (already bought it).

Can you say, if there will be another full-size novels in this universe?

Thx!

Ken Kennedy
Guest
1 month ago
Reply to  Omegaman

I believe that certain short hunks of fiction (“fiblets”) under the category grouped together at https://www.rifters.com/crawl/?cat=27 are intended to be from the third novel. IIRC, there’s a working title mentioned somewhere, but it’s not falling off the tongue right now.

Clemthor
Guest
Clemthor
1 month ago
Reply to  Ken Kennedy

The title “Omniscience” has been mentioned several times by our host, but I don’t think this is official yet.

Ashley
Guest
1 month ago

I caught your talk with Moid Moidelhoff of Media Death Cult and really enjoyed listening to you. Made me subscribe to him again (that’s not a reflection of his channel, just me and my relationship to YouTube who insist on recommending things based on things you’ve liked).

Lars
Guest
Lars
1 month ago

It has also won a number of awards in its own right, although as far as I know it has never won a Locus.

Wouldn’t it be rather recursive if it did?

Greggles
Guest
Greggles
1 month ago

I’ve found over the years that conversations with people like Karl Schroeder to be quite maddening. There’s this weird bifurcation with their thought processes where on the one hand they’ll make optimistic arguments based around efficiencies, rational decision making, freedom of choice and market forces and then on the other make optimistic arguments about powerful institutions and individuals seeing the light and leading us to a sustainable future. The thought that these two lines of argumentation are fundamentally at odds with each other never occurs to them.
I first ran into this weird mental schism in 2002 while studying engineering and I’ve only seen it become more widespread over the last two decades

Marek Vinc9br
Guest
Marek Vinc9br
1 month ago
Reply to  Greggles

Well given that people in the “western world” lived in the bisystem with both democracy and capitalism for very long time we have kinda forgotten that these systems have different answer for “why things happen”, or even that they are different systems at all.

Antonio
Guest
1 month ago

Glad to hear about the TFTB podcast.

Already listened to the Media Death Cult interview. I didn’t knew about the 21-S God. I read the snippet here in rifters and was amazing.

Do you know when and where the short story will be published?

Aardvark Cheeselog
Guest
Aardvark Cheeselog
1 month ago

I was also expecting him to use an author photo that had been taken with the past ten years.

If only you had access to some kind of online archive, where you could post a current publicity headshot and point to it and say “hey use that if you need a pic.”

Aardvark Cheeselog
Guest
Aardvark Cheeselog
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Watts

I think that’s awesome and you should have a link to it as a standard part of your boilerplate acceptance to do any kind of talking head gig.

Tipo deIncognito
Guest
1 month ago

Those are all fine and interesting issues, but they became noise to me when you wrote:

the stuff I’m not allowed to talk about because of the NDAs involved.

I’ll quote Jason Pargin to sum up my feelings:

There are two kinds of people in the world; the first see locks and warning signs and say, “If they’re keeping it locked up so tight, that means it’s both dangerous and none of my business.” But the second type say, “If they want to keep it a secret so bad, then it must be worth seeing.” 

Anyway, glad to see that you are alive.

Whoever
Guest
Whoever
1 month ago

Pardon the intrusion. My semi-annual, or is it annual?, Watts & Co. holiday “card.”

B8E0BD6D-56CD-40A3-AFCB-03BB597EA127.jpeg
Rosten
Guest
1 month ago

Pantheon is indeed very good. It looks so bland because it’s not anime, rather American animation which is fundamentally different at the storyboard level. The cyberpunk anime which was done by a Japanese studio is an interesting contrast (The game itself does have uploads as a large part of it’s plotline but the anime limits itself to following some colourful charismatic-but-ultimately-doomed characters around)

By the way, I was noodling around with chatgtp, trying to get it to answer true or false questions and I hit on asking it about you, it does know who you are and seems to have read Blindsight (Though it’s adamant that copyright must be respected and we should pay to read the book, it does not believe me when I tell it it’s available on CC). It could identify paragraphs from the text but when asked to produce one it made up something vaguely Wattsian sounding that didn’t actually exist in the book (I searched!)

Unfortunately I didn’t save the chat and it’s gone now. It even had opinions on the characters (Sarasti is not a nice person) but it refused to believe any stabbings took place or that Amanda Bates was planning a mutiny. And it could quote the medical definition of blindsight but had trouble with practical examples (No, a man who can catch a ball despite reporting being blind is not suffering from blindsight)

Talking to it actually reminds me of the bit in the eriophora story where they’re describing the chimp being hobbled during it’s development. It’s very hard to talk to it without tripping it’s content filters or outright crashing the session.

Jamie Langan
Guest
Jamie Langan
1 month ago

Off topic – and a predictable ask – but would be interested in hearing what your stand out fiction choices were in 2022

Gary Flood
Guest
Gary Flood
16 days ago

Just to say I very much enjoyed you on ‘The Bridge’ and ‘Cult’. I’d have been happy if the latter was even longer! Was v interested in your core book list.

Clem
Guest
Clem
3 days ago

Schroeder seems like exactly the sort of reasonable middle-grounder who flies to COP every year, fills their hearts with the hopeful platitudes on offer and then goes home. Nothing changes. They won’t accept draconian rules, they won’t accept biological alterations. So, we get the whirlwind which will enforce, scratch that, is enforcing its own sort of hegemony.